When Simpson’s writer Rob LaZebnik wrote Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons in which Smithers come out as gay, he had a very special person is mind, his son.
“I am a Midwestern guy, so I don’t tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I thought, ‘What better way to tell my son I love him than to write a cartoon about it?’” says Rob.
Rob’s 21-year-old son, Johnny, is gay and is proud to have a supportive father.
“The revelation that my father loves me is not much of a revelation, thankfully. He’s unbelievably accepting,” says Johnny. “We’re as close as a straight dad and a gay son could be.”
Rob said he has been planning this episode for a long time. He wrote it a few years before he even pitched it to executives. Also, he ran it by Johnny, who approved of the script. “I was really happy that someone who has experience with a gay person in their immediate family was writing the script,” he says.
Johnny shared a funny anecdote about his father doing research into gay culture.
“He once sent me an email, and the header was just ‘How does Grindr work?’ I screenshotted and Instagrammed it and sent it to all my gay friends because it made me laugh so much.”
Rob believes it’s important to see LGBT characters on tv so gay people don’t feel alone or ostracized.
“Sometimes TV can have a real impact on people’s thinking,” he says, “and I certainly hope it will have an impact on my son’s dating life — not that he needs help.”
Fans of The Simpsons will not be surprised by Smithers’ revelation, since it’s been hinted it all along.
“We didn’t really want to have that big moment of ‘I’m out,’ you know?” Rob says. “Instead, just have it be a big embrace — like everyone knows it.”
It’s similar to how Johnny came out to his own parents. “I was the gayest little kid, and my parents knew that,” he says. “I told them I was interested in a boy. My parents were, like, ‘Yeah, we know.’”
Johnny adds, though, that he is far from being anything like Smithers. “I’m more of a gay Lisa Simpson,” But he’s still excited about the episode. “I’m thinking of having a viewing party, just because this episode, not only is it written by my dad, but is especially meaningful to me.”